Nothing has a bigger impact on your company’s profitability than customer satisfaction. Every increase in your satisfaction rating translates directly into larger and more frequent orders, and positive word of mouth attracts even more customers. The best way to measure customer satisfaction and to discover how to improve customer satisfaction is by using customer satisfaction surveys. Improving customer satisfaction requires three simple steps.
Step One: Design your Questionnaire
Many people don’t realize that a poorly designed survey questionnaire may be worse for the business than not conducting customer satisfaction surveys at all. For example, most inexperienced survey creators follow the advice of some free Internet survey tools and use “Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor” as the survey scale. However, since three out of five possible selections are “good”, this scale skews the results to the positive. In addition, the presence of a neutral response, “Fair”, enables customers to sit on the fence instead of expressing their opinions. We know that everyone has an opinion about everything if they have some knowledge of the subject matter. Let’s use vanilla ice cream as an example. You either like it or you don’t, you have an opinion. Customer satisfaction research requires the gathering opinions, not neutral responses, because with enough opinions (a representative sample) you have fact.
The result of poorly written survey questions and poorly designed survey scales is inaccurate data. This means that you may not discover the actions you should take to improve customer satisfaction. Even worse, you may be lulled into a false complacency that customers are very happy when they aren’t, or you may make multi-million dollar decisions based upon faulty data. It takes the experience and knowledge of professional researchers to design a customer satisfaction survey correctly.
Step Two: Deploy the Customer Satisfaction Surveys
The nature of survey research means that you will always be dealing with a sample because not everyone you invite to participate will respond. In many cases the population under study is so large that it may be financially unwise to survey the entire group, especially when it is unnecessary to achieve a representative sample. When people are not aware of the science behind surveys, they may not know how to ensure that a sample of survey responses is representative of the entire customer population. They also may not know if they have enough responses to provide statistically valid results on sub-sets of the collected data such as customer type, product type, geographic area, etc. Proper sampling techniques are essential to the success and accuracy of any customer satisfaction survey. This usually means that professionals should be hired to assist with the survey project.
Step Three: Interpretation and Action
Many people look at graphical analytics displays and have no idea what to do next. Dashboards and graphics don’t represent the value of a survey, actionable insight does. Insight requires training and experience in psychology and statistics to derive the meaning behind the responses.
With the proper insight, you can prioritize your action plans to those activities that will have the greatest impact on overall customer satisfaction. You can identify low hanging fruit – items that may have a profound impact on satisfaction, but that you can execute quickly and with little expense.
Taking targeted action is the most important part of the process because it improves customer satisfaction. Making sure that customers know you have made changes because of the survey also tends to improve satisfaction with your company and your brand.
The three steps to improving customer satisfaction are simple, but they are based on the assumption that you are fielding an effective customer satisfaction survey(s). Poor survey techniques will not improve customer satisfaction and may even be detrimental. A properly designed and executed customer satisfaction survey will improve customer satisfaction and profitability.
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